A bit of good news re. the Kick-About-inspired short film, When I Was A Boy, I Collected Pebbles From The Beach; it has just made the official selection for the Nature & Culture – Poetry Film Festival 2021, which means it will be screened in Copenhagen on the 21st and 28th of November at Kulturhuset Islands Brygge and added to The Poetic Phonotheque archive.
I remember the first time I watched Lottle Reiniger’s Cinderella (1922), thrilling at the moment when we see the ugly sister cut off her own toes in order to make the glass slipper fit her foot – a reminder that fairy stories, as written originally, were hardly short on violence and darkness. Take that Walt Disney, with all your syrup! Inspired by folk-tales, and by those who survive in the shadows, I’ve written my own fairy story for our Reiniger-themed Kick-About No.31, crammed with impossible things presented as commonplace, thought probably not anyone’s idea of a bedtime story.
You can read a PDF version here.
Our previous Kick-About together was inspired by images of the human eye, resulting in an abundance of other-worldly imagery and one short story, in which an elderly man vanishes magically away in the middle of an art exhibition. The pioneering silhouette animations of Lotte Reiniger are likewise preoccupied with all things magical: magical lamps, magical slippers, and magical beings. This week’s showcase of artists’ work riffs on Reiniger’s unique aesthetic and narrative milieu. Happy browsing.
“I always enjoy looking beyond the silhouettes of Lotte Reiniger animations and into the exotic and intricate backgrounds that she made. I get a simple sensory pleasure from the illusion of depth that can be achieved in black and white, just using the basic principles of foreground, midground and background. Visualising big worlds is not something I am particularly good at, but as I started to develop these images, I couldn’t help imagine them as big structures in some vast desolate landscape, where few living things remain.“
“I live in Berlin, just round the corner from where Marlene Dietrich was born, and I’m a big fan of Lotte Reiniger and early German cinema. love the theatricality, the creativity and technical ingenuity that went in to making these animations, as well as the fairy tale subject matter.
A few years ago I was involved in creating some animation sequences and images for screen projection for a stage production of Hansel and Gretel. Lotte Reiniger’s 1955 film of the story, as well as earlier German expressionist cinema were certainly in the mix when I was making this work, and I thought it would fit the bill for the Kick-About prompt this week. I’ve included some images that were made to project onto a screen behind the performers during the scenes when Hansel and Gretel were lost in the forest.”
“When doing research for the Howard Sooley – Prospect Cottage prompt, I came across the inspiring work of Lotte Reiniger, and since then I have been busy cutting, glueing and making for a shadow puppet animated short entitled The Lighthouse Keeper, which centres around the peculiar landscape of Dungeness and a couple of burly blokes. Creating something for the sake of creating and figuring out the hurdles and bumps along the way is what is most enjoyable about delving into a fresh medium I have yet to attempt. The stage is now set, the characters are ready to move, the lights are on and with it, the sheer joy of seeing the cut-out shapes and silhouettes lit up, ablaze. Moving from behind the messy, makeshift backstage to the front brought the biggest smile to my face, which makes the absolute bomb site of my shrinking bedroom all worth it! I am sharing the majority of the cut-out shapes, the stage and silhouettes that will feature in the film, as well as some lighting and staging tests with the main protagonist – while I wait for the delivery for the all important light source before the real fun begins.”
“I realized immediately I had seen Lotte Reiniger’s work before. It did not surprise me to hear Reiniger say, ‘I could cut out silhouettes almost as soon as I could manage to hold a pair of scissors’. Her work is, yes, ‘astonishing’. Me? I never had that dexterity, not even when young. I also don’t work in film, which was Reiniger’s medium. So how to respond to this prompt? I was going to work with simple bird silhouettes, but was unhappy with the ones I made myself. Once again, I had constructed a 3-D collage environment with cardboard pieces inside a paper bag. I decided to use photos of bird silhouettes, and hang them from strings at the top so they would move. I used circles to enclose the bird forms so I could put different photos on each side–the images would change when the dangling circles turned. Using the ceiling fan to create more movement, I began to take photos.”
that song that your words called
into my mind, that song is like
a lost world, just images
in fragments, suspended like
a raincloud without rain,
a weight that refuses
to dissipate–I can almost
feel the memory but it won’t
land, it keeps circling
through the things that aren’t
quite there–like a bird
call I can’t locate, disembodied
wings hovering invisible
inside my head
“Lotte Reiniger’s beautiful silhouette works appeared to largely focus on fairy tales, so I wanted to come at it from a different angle. Taking inspiration from something short, like a poem, I delved into some of my childhood books and lit upon Edward Lear’s ‘Complete Nonsense.’ With my poem selected I created the scene with some coloured paper, and rigged up my phone for stop frame-animation. This was quite the challenge without a proper lighting set up, or the ability to ‘onion-skin’ my images, so there are some interesting colour variations caused by cloud cover and some rather choppy movements. But perhaps that adds to the charm of the ‘Young Lady of Portugal’! (Or perhaps I need some more practice and MANY more inbetweens!).”
“Silhouettes have been around for many years and I know that they are very tricky to work convincingly. Lotte Reiniger must have been a very clever mistress of this craft and way ahead of her time. I decided to do some cut work on the facade of a decorative little theatre and inside put a small montage – since my animation skills are nil and it uses up some of my mountain of collage papers! I’m not sure if The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear is still as well known as it was in my schooldays, but its entertaining characters are great for paper modeling, plus the tiny details of jars of honey, runcible spoons etc. So now all that’s left to do is settle back and sing along – ‘The owl and the pussycat went to sea in a beautiful pea green boat…'”
“I loved these early animations. So full of energy and passion. I remember the fascination I felt as a child when adults amused me by making rabbits with their hands on the walls when the sun was out, and in the evenings with little table lights. I love watching moving shadows, and when I was in Mexico there were always shadows, as there never seemed to be a day without sun. A little different here in the past two weeks, so here are a few snatched mages and sounds of PLACE. Guess the Mexican one!”
“Thank you, Graeme, for the inspiring venture into action. Months have passed without life drawing so, the recreation ground provided observation of the figure in motion. This playful solitary kick-about prompted a series of sketches, which later, shifted to paint in the studio. Perhaps a bit of Lowry, if I may indulge myself. The second motion-based work is a spin off from the online RA Saturday Sketch Club which thankfully James Randall introduced me too, I’ve added in the mask which dates the work.” Oil on prepared paper 24 x 65 cm.
“There is an apartment block just across the road from ours – floor to ceiling glass – a very Rear Window stage. Nice simple shapes too. And a jumping off point for fantasy and metaphor.”
“I remember the first time I watched Reiniger’s Cinderella, thrilling at the moment when we see the ugly sister cut off her own toes in order to make the glass slipper fit her foot – a reminder that fairy stories, as written originally, were hardly short on violence and darkness. Take that Walt Disney, with all your syrup! Inspired by folk-tales, and by those who live in the shadows, I’ve written my own fairy story for the Kick-About, crammed with impossible things presented as commonplace, thought probably not anyone’s idea of a bedtime story…’
You can read a PDF version here.
With thanks to kick-abouter, Phill Hosking (who has just recently started this new blog), we have, as our new prompt, a 2010 oil painting by American artist, Brian Rutenberg, Low Dense, which is just a little over four metres wide! What a welcome kick of mouthwatering colour. Have fun.
The Kick-About No. 29 was inspired by Murakami’s description of the all-seeing moon, and this, our latest creative shindig together, has been prompted by an image of the human eye no less planetary…
“In eyeing things up, this KA drew my attention to the bees snuggling into, and reversing out of the foxgloves so, being nosey I had a peak, and discovered a tunnel of pure exotic joy with bright saturated light (optic disc) at the end of the tunnel. Taking a closer look meant later on recalling sensations, avoiding loyalty to the order of nature’s design, to arrive at – maybe the same for the bee (how presumptuous) – memory of that which came to me as a rush.” Oil on prepared paper 25cm x 25cm.
“Dear Charly Skilling – thank you for your beautiful moon submission – enormous hugs to you and your beloved. Unfortunately I didn’t read it until after bouncing out of the kick-about gates – it would have changed my direction by 180 degrees.
The fundus spiralled me through cyclops thoughts – not wanting to approach the glaucoma too closely. I added some Royal Academy on-line life drawing, a Tasmanian beach and sky, some sea birds from Byron Bay then decided it was to be all about emotion rather than narrative and substituted the cyclops for the falling upside-down life model to get to my pic. During this process I gazed longingly at our washing machine as I removed another load and noticed the similarity between the fundus image and the inside of the machine and took a series of photos with my head and camera wedged there – the obvious ones made sense thematically but I only really like the attached blurry detail.“
“I guess the first thing to establish is no actual eyes were harmed in the making of these images! I should say too, no actual eyes were photographed either. In common with these recent images, I looked to various commonplace things at my disposal and once again channelled my inner low-budget film-maker. I won’t reveal my secrets just yet, but suffice to say there is now a shortage of red food colouring and olive oil in our kitchen. I don’t think I will ever tire of the ‘in-camera’ transformations produced by light, specularity and depth-of-field, the magic that sometimes happens between the subject and the lens. I was inspired by images of cataracts and ‘damage’ to the eye (and I think, more gruesomely, by A Clockwork Orange too). This set of resulting images is but a small sample, as I did a bunch of different things over three different days. From these very biological-seeming images, things became more painterly and strange, so I’ll be sharing some more ‘fundus photography’ in the coming days. I’ve certainly been having some fun.’
“For these images I essentially constructed a mass of veins and vessels and trawled through dozens of randomly generated variations looking for the perfect image akin to how a photographer searches for the image of a perfect snowflake amongst hundreds of failures. I somehow managed to generate the aesthetic that I had in my mind after the first attempt, but beyond that lucky first hit I spent a considerable amount of time just staring at blurry orange images, only occasionally getting a glimpse of the things that had initially made me so excited. In a somewhat scientific manner, and after many experiments and further failures, I was able to come up with the formula and methodology that yielded more productive results. Thus was I finally able to reveal the secrets of ‘the eye‘.”
“I thought I would do a collage pattern of eye shapes, and began by sketching the outlines. As I did this a fantastic SF story came into my mind entitled ‘Dark They Were, and Golden Wyed’ written by Ray Bradbury. So I ended up with “Martian Eyes” which was fun to do. The background is a wax/wash and I used a combination of paper and material scraps.”
“The prompt this week sparked all kinds of thoughts, feelings and associations for me. I’m a visual artist, so the workings of the eye, and the connections between the eyes and the brain are pretty darn important, Artists have been exploring how we see things for a long time, not just how they record visual information, but how they can also play tricks, and see what is not there.
For example, before I get a migraine attack, I sometimes get visual disturbances, like veils of glowing zig-zag patterns that drift into my vision from the periphery of my sight until the cover everything. It was terrifying when it first happened, I thought I was having some sort of brain haemorrhage. And there are certain substances that can produce dramatic hallucinations that are totally convincing, but are created entirely by our minds, but the eye can see them.
I went to see an exhibition recently by Yayoi Kusama, a Japanese artist who has suffered visual hallucinations most of her life. Early on, she decided to include them in her art and they have become a signature of her work. Kusama has spoken about her wish to create work that conveys her desire to melt into everything, to dissolve and become one with the universe. Her mirrored rooms, or ‘infinity rooms’ as they’re called are particularly effective.
I’ve written a short story about a rather grumpy old man and his family who went to see the Kusama show. He’s a very imperfect man, but not all bad, like most of us, I suppose.”
“This was done in response to the rise in domestic abuse during lockdown. The eye tells all.”
Watercolour on vellum. 10cm X 8cm
“This prompt was made for my watercolor mandalas. I did 4, and embroidered on 2 of them. I’ve included both the original and the embroidered ones.”
“Whenever I see one of these retinal photographs, it makes me think of alien skies. Not that I know much about alien skies, except as depicted on the covers of sci-fi paperbacks or in Hollywood’s representations. So I decided to create my own “alien sky” with sharpies and alcohol on ceramic tile. While I was playing, I got to thinking about ‘Ingenuity’, the little drone helicopter NASA is using to map the terrain of Mars. Here are the results.”
“I just really wanted to do some digital drawing, I haven’t done much of it lately and I miss how relaxing it is to put some jazz music on, get in the flow and let the lines go where they may. Picturing different landscapes centred around the fundus photograph, a sprawling metropolis materialised, with vivacious characters and stories between them, feeling so close but far away.”
“I know this orange orb from personal experience. It unnerves me and intrigues me at the same time. A tricky subject for me from a very early age. I became a pirate at 4 with a constant patch over one eye that made my ‘lazy’ eye do a bit more work. Why am I lazy? I queried. Banned from games requiring throwing a ball. I saw two and had no idea which one to catch. At 8, I started putting lions in cages. I hate zoos. Terrified of balls coming towards me. Fascinated by cages and getting out of them. Set caged birds free.”
“Ah, the joy of that tiny piece of plastic. The contact lens! Free at last to see clearly, use make-up, change hair styles, join the world. My eyes did not agree and rebelled years later, after I had often rammed them back in my eyes with grit and detritus just licked off, as there was nowhere to rinse them up mountains in deserts. The dreaded Orange orb showed a bump that was dangerously close to detaching the retina of my right eye. The bump caused a sentence to dip in the middle on the screen or whilst reading a book. Back to wearing glasses despite trials with soft lenses and many a red eye, and now spiders appearing across my eyes! Back in my cage.”
“So why this lengthy preamble? It could have been much worse. I am obsessed with fencing and seeing through. The lion is sleeping, He has left the cage. The cage has transformed naturally.”
“Watching dancers and working for 25 years to understand the body in movement through the Feldenkrais method (Awareness through movement), I understand and feel the natural combination of the spiral of movement from the eye to the feet. It reminds me of twisted fencing that often crops up in my work and connects me to the natural world to which we all belong.”
“Having googled what fundus photography actually was, I realised I was vaguely familiar, as a long-time glasses wearer. Needless to say I was drawn to visually representing my experiences. My most prevalent memory (since I was about 5 years old) is of the ‘balloon machine.’ A standard test in most eye examinations: the grainy image of a distant hot air balloon against a blue sky, blurring and refocusing, is a distinct childhood memory. Plus, the unique set of noises the machine would emit as it altered the focus. It sounded a lot like an antiquated printer. Going beyond the physical tests I’m fairly familiar with, I looked into more metaphorical representations. Fundus photographs show networks of blood vessels. Leading me to networks of nerves, images being processed and the like. So I envisioned snap shots transitioning from one to the next with the blink of an eye!”
With thanks to regular Kick-Abouter, Graeme Daly, we have our brand new prompt, the work, life and times of German animation pioneer, Lotte Reiniger.
There are a number of things I miss about my previous role working in higher education – and many things I do not.
One of the things I miss most about those days was my day-to-day proximity to other creatives, to their respective projects, and to their conversations about them. An average day would see dozens of discussions about storytelling, art direction, materials, research, conceptualisation, producton design, visual representation and promotion. Manifesting ‘something from nothing’ was always the business of the day, as we all worked together to get an idea ‘from script to screen’ or from 2D into 3D, from a dream of a thing to the thing itself. I know now how luxurious my old job was. Actually, I knew it then and never once took it for granted. It was life-affirming to be in the company of people who could first see things in their mind, and then develop those images into concrete, substantive outcomes – an act of magic and an act of faith.
Hardly surprising then I might have wanted some of that back, to work again with a diverse community of artists, to give a fair whack of my time and energy to making a space in which more of those conversations could take place. So it was I had the idea for The Kick-About, a blog-based creative challenge, in which creatives of all kinds were given the chance to make some new work in response to a fortnightly prompt – myself included. One year later, and we’ve just published Edition 26 of The Kick-About, a gathering together of participants’ favourite submissions, and one thing is clear: there is power in community, not least because the expectation of an audience for new work is an effective means of seeing off procrastination and preciousness by encouraging decisiveness and utility. There is creative freedom too in ‘short sharp snaps’ of creative activity, that ability to start something up and then close it down in a succinct period of time.
Speaking personally, I’ve found The Kick-About to be a hugely satisfying experience, and after a decade-or-more of very happily giving my best ideas away to other people, it’s been reassuring and exciting to discover there are still more ideas where all those others came from. I’ve loved the problem-solving aspect of the fortnightly prompts – resolving cogent, authentic responses to the various prompts in lots of different ways. You might also call it ‘flying by the seat of your pants’ – and yes, it’s been fun.
Gathered here are all my Kick-About responses, digital artworks, sculptures, photographs, shorts films and short stories, and collaborations with other artists. Agreed, it makes for an eclectic ensemble, but I’m reminded – happily – of being nineteen years old and studying my Art Foundation course, which was all about trying and doing everything and not worrying about what it was all for, or what you were going to do with it, or what you were going to do next.
So yes, I do feel younger for running around with my fellow kick-abouters, and if not quite nineteen, then not far off. I just want to say a very real and heartfelt thank you to everyone in the Kick-About community, whether you’ve played once, or always. Your company and creativity is, and has been, restorative, and I’m very much looking forward to doing it all again with Kick-About No.27. Onwards!
Welcome to this first anniversary edition of The Kick-About, a fortnightly blog-based creative challenge in which artists of all stripes come together to present work in response to a given prompt. I asked contributors to choose a favourite work of their own from the previous twenty-five editions so I could celebrate them all together here.
I just want to say a personal note of thanks to everyone who takes part. Producing new ideas and new work in under a fortnight brings with it its own challenges, insecurities and pressures, but if you’re anything like me, you will have enjoyed the otherwise simple satisfaction of making work, getting it done, expressing your creativity, and sharing it with a supportive community. Some of you have thanked me for hosting the Kick-About, and some of you have even worried about the work and time I may be giving it; rest assured, this is the work I like to do and I’m very happy to do it.
Thanks to everyone who has taken part this last year, and I’m very much hoping we can continue to combine our efforts as productively and imaginatively in the coming weeks. Now, just look at what you did…
“Thanks for the Kick-About. For some of us, making art is as natural as breathing, and sometimes almost as necessary to life. During a dark time in history, thanks for stimulating art prompts among creative friends, unfettered by constraints, rules or judgement. Freedom to make in any direction. It’s been a joy. And since you want one favourite, I’m selecting those Bird Ladies from Kick-About No.2. And I hope they sort themselves out soon and send that bureaucratic penguin back to Antarctica.”
“I’ve not been as involved as others in the bi-weekly Kick-About posts, but I’ve seriously enjoyed the challenge of completely unexpected briefs. I’ve chosen to include my piece ‘Orpheus’ this week. This one stood out to me for several reasons, partly because it allowed me to flex my digital painting muscles again, something I’d neglected for a while. Also it was a powerful story that instantly brought up images, compositions and drama. That narrative aspect is something I often neglect in my personal work. This was the challenge, like I had to capture the story, as if on the front cover of book. Our hero enters the underworld, ‘hell’ bent on saving his wife ‘Eurydice’ from the clutches of the dark forces below. Everything a digital painter wants in an image.”
“Selecting KA9 is easy, as it reminds me of how important instinct is within process, as well the time span of sitting across 4 hours 40 minutes to complete a process. I trusted my responses to the music, invited in chance, kept the demon of doubt outside the door, and I enjoyed colour as an adventure. KA9 felt like a pure creative experience and it beckons me on to do more. The community of KA has been totally enriching and so rewarding.”
“Kick-About No.1 was a cathartic experience as I’m often caught up on details and reasoning. And those hang-ups can sometimes paralyse my creativity. I realise now, sometimes it’s just a simple premise, and it’s dumb fun and exploration that’s needed. And I definitely found joy and a small sense of achievement in that process!”
“Weirdly enough I’ve chosen this..a tough call but although I loved putting together the installations I only record them as 6” X 4” photos, which are then put into a KA book as a record. However, I do have my drawings, so could take a better photo, as they’re bigger! I chose this as it WAS tedious in its repetitive way, but after a while it became a form of meditation, and I was happy with the outcome, which is rare. Actually I could have chosen any as far as enjoying the process goes, so onwards to the next…” Graphite on Fabriano.
“An epic and bi-sectioned electronic piece telling the story of the cicada life from a more dark point of view. Beware – the first four minutes are much quieter than the last two. Good speakers or headphones are recommended.”
TJ and Jo Norman
www.tjnartists.com / #tjnartists
“The Kick About has brought me to places I’ve never dreamed of going. I’ve dipped my toes into mediums, styles and parts of myself that have otherwise been sealed off. I have learned to find magic in the mundane, while learning a great deal about films, authors, and artists, from the many prompts we have created together. I always feel inspired to see what you all have created every fortnight, so for that I am thankful to all you fellow kick-abouters for your words and creations.
In saying that, it is difficult to choose a favourite, as they all have been a joy to see flourish. One Kick-About does come to mind and that is No. 22, which was the art, life and times of the Austrian painter, Eugen von Ransonnet-Villez, and with it the Pools film. The reason why it is my favourite is because of the way it came to be and the journey it took to get it to that state. I wasn’t seeking this film out. I wasn’t trying to capture anything like it, I didn’t even know this place existed. I was merely bouncing around the innards of the forestry one bitter cold winter morning when a dumping of snow was beginning to melt, and where I set out to capture the extrusion of thick snow rimmed treetops. I found all that, but I also found this film – in a trench of shallow, glistening water.
Making Pools was a creative journey, and I’m thankful it happened in such an organic way: from finding the place and deciding to film it, to viewing the resulting footage as flawed, while still being preoccupied by it, to the Kick-About prompt providing the perfect opportunity to salvage the film into something I’m proud of.
It was a pure delve into the unknown to make something just for the sake of it, not knowing how the outcome would look but just enjoying the whole process of making this thing. I think, in its essence, that is what is so great about The Kick About and why I love being a part of it with you all.”
“At the time of the making of my Metropolis images for The Kick-About #2 I had been living in the same apartment for over three years, and for some reason had never really taken the time to explore the surrounding area with the eye of a photographer or an artist, mostly because it all just seemed very boxy and residential in a way that I have become totally accustomed to seeing every day.
However, with a lot of free time and a phone-camera in hand, I thought that surely the true mundaneness of a real metropolis could be made into something interesting somehow. After fiddling with some images, I ended up with some quite authentic looking silent film production set photos which of course really reminded me of that other Metropolis. I think they even capture the unusual atmosphere and uncertainty of the time they were created.”
“I choose this one because I managed to capture a very personal sense of nostalgia, which is something that I had been trying to crack for a while. Also, it was the first time I had been motivated to break out the paints for over a year, which is a long time, especially when I had been making work every day. It highlighted to me that I need to stronger with myself as a creative and have the fortitude to keep pushing through various blocks and it did herald a period of increased productivity. Also, it is one of the artier of my submissions…”
“The Kick-About #6 is still one of my favourite prompts, and one of the most meaningful series of paintings I have done in the last few years. It represents the beginning of a new creative journey for me, a new painting style, and, at the same time, it encompasses much of my life and experiences. For this “anniversary” I picked just one of the four, my favourite, and the first one I painted. It was originally inspired by a photograph of the Canadian winter landscape by Evelin Berg and, as I mentioned, were partly concept paintings for a short animation I haven’t finished yet. The journey, the film, the story….all still ongoing.” Ink on watercolour paper, 240x680cm.
Julien Van Wallendael
“I have learnt so much over the last year from participating in The Kick-About, and enjoyed so many different aspects, that I found it really difficult to pick a ‘favourite’. Some pieces have stretched me technically, some have taken me into totally unfamiliar territory, some have felt satisfactorily “complete”. But one submission made me smile when it first occurred to me, smile as I worked on it, and smile even now when I read it back. I can’t think of a better reason for re-visiting it, so my ‘Favourite Kick-About’ is Field Guide to Getting Lost and The Ballad of Ethel and Hilda’.
“It’s the Five Canons of Rhetoric! I’ve chosen this one as it made me really think about my work and its origins and process. It led to the story of this Sea Heart pod that continues to fascinate me along with all the other seed-pods in my life! The journey of this pod crept into the following Kick-About as well, maybe because I can’t travel at the moment and I long to be doing so. It always refreshes my mind and creativity… apart from missing my friends in distant lands.”
“The prompt was Cocteau’s Orpheus, because of the element of serendipity: on a Covid walk, I dragged home two entwined ivy trees, saw the prompt, (not sure which happened first) something clicked, and I set about exploring the potential…”
“The KA’s have been a great way to divert my attention and have provided reason for exploration of deep buried thoughts. Thank you’s to all of you who have donated jumping off points – sometimes they resonate so deafeningly – not always at the point of conceptualising – the museum KA didn’t kick-in for me until I started putting paint to paper but then it dragged up some of the creative juices that I thought had been long gone. So I guess that makes it my significant KA moment. I love the tantalising breadth of work created by all of you. KA reveal days are always so exciting. It amazes me how you seem to tumble out great pieces or concepts. Also amazing how open you have been with background stories to some of the works. Thanks again and I hope KA can continue long after lockdown.”
“In response to the “Kick-about anniversary” (and my very small contribution to it) I have chosen to revisit my take on the Eugen von Ransonnet Villez submarine paintings.
Marine paintings have become a large part of my creative output over the last decade. As a graphic designer just over ten years ago my health took something of a wobble and the medical advice was to change lifestyle. This evolved over a few years and resulted in less use of the mouse and tablet and more the old fashioned paintbrush. It became as much as anything else a journey of self discovery. Several visual themes emerged but the one most urgent in my need to explore was the sea. I soon found like minded painters at the National Maritime Museum Art Club where I became chairman. The club has had a couple of identity changes since then but still exists as the Thames Maritime Artists and I am still chairman.
The limpid, accurately observed and interpreted tones and colours used by Ransonnel Villez immediately struck a chord with my own struggle to capture how we see water and objects in water. Seascape and coastal painting is quite a niche area in painting, not fashionable, and hasn’t been since the Royal Navy stopped ruling the waves, but I have never been troubled by fashion. For me the test of how well I am performing is to be judged by peers and to that end over a number of years I have submitted paintings to the Royal Society of Marine Artists annual open exhibition at the Mall Galleries in London. For four years I failed to get anything into the show, I was disappointed but not discouraged and eventually in 2019 I got a piece into the show. In 2020 in the middle of the pandemic I got two pieces in – and won the Classic Boat Prize. It certainly does not beat taking your life in your hands going under the sea in a primitive diving bell but sometimes dogged persistence does pay off. I have attached a couple of RSMA exhibition to add to the original set.”
“For the Kick-About I’d like to submit my Symbols piece (#5). Of all the digital work I’ve produced over the last year, it stands out to me as being truly different and emotionally driven. Something in Alice Neel’s original painting really clicked with me.”
“I would like to choose ‘Dance of the Happy Shades’ as my favourite piece. It was my very first appearance on the Kick-about and possibly one of my best works. It involved using the mixed media of silk material and painting, and I felt it was a good showcase for my manipulative skills with fabric. I definitely got a buzz from seeing my picture on the internet and I loved using the bright, cheerful colours. It made me feel excited, hopeful and creative even though it was the start of lockdown.”
“While I haven’t been able to contribute as often as I would like in recent months, The Kick-About is a welcome stretch away from my day-to-day. Working in design, I’ve felt it more and more challenging to work without a brief or steer, to make for the pleasure of making, without feeling the need to justify time spent playing as part of a longer project or showreel piece. The Kick-About has provided that stimulus, giving a direction but not a destination, and a space to remember that away from the rounds of amends, renders and timesheets, making is simply, fun. For this reason, making a witches bottle due to a misreading of a painting by Alice Neel was the most enjoyable project for me, reading and researching down whatever avenue seemed interesting, formulating an idea without thinking of demographics or target audience, and then making something however crudely with real physical materials, not worrying about brand guidelines or alignment or safe margins. Looking at the high quality of the other submissions makes it lucky I’m dressing up my motivation in the same outfit as naive or folk art. However, at a time which created a step back from our daily lives and the time to think about why we do the things we do, for me The Kick-About is the reminder I needed to not pack everything in and try to manage a hedge fund. Joy! It’s all about joy!“
“I’m choosing the Invisible Cities (Ersilla) prompt as my favorite. First, because it was something I wanted to do as soon as I read the book a few years ago, but had never gotten around to. And also because it expanded my work from my usual repertoire, which is basically 2-dimensional.
I would say that almost all the prompts have pushed me further than I would normally go outside my comfort zone which is a very good thing. And everyone else’s work is so inspiring, it keeps my mind full of different ideas and inspiration.”
“I’ve loved being part of the Kick-About over the last year. It’s got me doing things I’ve never done before, such as writing and recording my own voice, and it’s going me doing things that I’d never have done without it, so a big thank you, Phil, for putting this together every fortnight. It’s been a real pleasure seeing how people have responded to the prompts and I’m always in awe of the variety, the talent and the creativity that appears in each post.
I’ve got a few favourites from the past year, but i’m choosing this image, which I called ‘Forest Flare’ and made in response to the Orphée’prompt way back last June I think. I painted some 2D trees, an arch and a sky onto card, and then lit and photographed th em on my desk. The main reason I was pleased with how it turned out is that, in the photographic image, a small figure appeared, sitting on the floor, framed by the arch and looking like a faun that had wandered out of the paper forest. It wasn’t there when I looked at the table top set up, but some magic happened in the camera and the image turned out more interesting that I’d planned – quite spooky!”
“I’ve chosen ‘Baba’s Important Work’ because the resulting short story speaks to the power of a random prompt to produce something satisfying, unpredictable and inevitable-seeming. That a story set in a static caravan, in some dystopian society, should have issued from an old book on nautical knot-work, makes me feel excited about the creative process in all its strangeness. I find it reassuring too, a bit like going to Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard, opening its doors, and finding, thank goodness, there are still ideas in there after all.“
“Albatross Box is the only sculpture I’ve done for the Kick Abouts – and it is the one that has proven the most constant source of inspiration since I made it. It is still hung up in my house, changing with the light and day and it is a source of endless fascination for my 3 year old. Once COVID restrictions ease a bit, I’d love to scout out some more bones and do a few more bone shadow boxes with poetry and make it a series (I confess to already rescuing another wooden box from the curb in anticipation!). “
“Picking a personal favourite is so tricky! My mind immediately jumps to the Alice Neel prompt from Kick-About #3. I really enjoyed the making of that piece in it’s simplicity and assemblage of iconography. I also enjoyed Kick-About #23 in which I could channel grief into some strange cardboard constructions. Both of those prompts were so calming and helpful to produce. But if I’m honest with myself, I think the very first Kick-About was my favourite subject, largely because the Max Ernst prompt is well suited to my comfort zone – bizarre landscapes and painting methods. What a boring choice I know, but I remember that painting evolving so clearly in my head, and it was a joy.”
And, oh look, we’re off again already – with a new painting-based prompt, Giorgio de Chirico’s The Song Of Love (1914)…
I properly disappeared into this, our 24th Kick-About prompt, another complete world building around it and absorbing me completely. I kept discovering all these pockets of rage and sadness as I wrote this short story, not least because I’ve been reading a lot about so-called “conversion therapies” and ‘cures for homosexuality’, and not least because a fair ratio of Glorious is based on the life and times of an individual I know well, a man who guards his freedoms fiercely, with no f**ks given. The setting of the story is also a real place, with its big bridge and creeping gentrification, though liberties have been taken everywhere. I wanted to get into the different ways behaviours can be tamed, so while I’m civil-partnered myself, I know a number of older gay men – and one in particular – who would, if pushed (and not very hard) express a certain wariness for the onwards march towards ‘normalcy’, preferring instead the distinctiveness of transgression and what is ‘uncivilised’ and ‘anti-social’ about some aspects of its subculture.
You’ll find an online PDF version here.
Arguably, the wunderkammers gathered together by the likes of Ole Worm – our last prompt – represent pure expressions of human curiosity, untamed by such things as order, category, reason, or taxonomy, where the real and the imaginary are given equal footing. Now, with Isadora Duncan’s clarion call for free expression and non-conformity ringing in our hearts and minds, the kick-abouters this week are running wild and free…
“With this week’s prompt being “You were once wild here, don’t let them tame you” I instantly thought about being amongst the countryside of Ireland, and surrounded by flora and fauna. When I was younger, I was wild at heart; I climbed the highest trees, I made hideouts, I swam in rivers. The ground on top of hills surrounded by fairy trees was ground down by my cousins and myself, with our bikes fucked into the nearest ditch. We could be heard screaming with joy in this landscape playground that was all around us. We would cycle into town, put our money together and buy sweets and milkshakes, then cycle back – milkshake in hand and eat our feasts, supported by tree trunks and makeshift wooden slats. I feel like I grew up on the precipice of this wild and free way of life, before it started to die out with the younger generation concentrating more on the protective shield of screens. I still feel like I have that sense of adventure within me, and when it is my birthday this year I am buying myself a bike to find some places that remind me of that time, I might not make hideouts like I used too, but I will be taking photos of places that bring me back to that untamed nature.
Pictured here are photos from the forest taken this past Christmas, where we ran amok often. I wanted the photos to feel nostalgic, with a rustic warmness to them and an influx of colour, but also show that we adventured to places like this in all seasons and all weather, where we were free and wild with not a care in the world. We never let anyone tame us and that’s how it should be.”
“Cats in Australia are a problem. They’re often mistreated, often dumped, and the feral population is gigantic, doing enormous damage to our wildlife. Click here to find out more. My lovely foster cat arrived painfully thin, with 4 bouncing babies. All of them have now been successfully adopted. Hooray! Go well little ones…”
“Technically these guys once were wild, having been picked up as strays. But at the same time, they were affectionate and tame. So they are not really my response to this prompt. My response was, I think, a little influenced by a far superior cat painting, by William Kentridge that is on the wall of my studio. But really it was just a fun play about with ink. Fairly large scale on cartridge. I swished up a few garden plants for him to prowl in. Then combined the two in Photoshop. I altered his head and paws a bit to bring him into a more domestic cat proportion, and out of the original, more expressionist type. He represents the suburban animal who is both wild and tame at the same time. Every time he goes outside, he becomes his own heritage, a wild animal. Our gardens are his hunting ground. It is a fascinating thing, albeit devastating to our wildlife.”
“This was such a gift of a prompt! How all our lives have been tamed by this pandemic over the last year and how we yearn to escape it, the masks, the travel bans, the social distancing, the pub closures, etc. How do you sustain your ‘wildness’ when you have to stay indoors so much? I’ve spoken to lots of friends over the last year who used to spend their spare time climbing mountains, or skiing, or travelling to far flung places. Now they do jigsaw puzzles, or make sourdough. On paper it’s all rather tragic, but as long as we’re holding on to our wild selves inside it doesn’t matter I suppose. If we keep the wild candle burning somewhere in a little sacred space in our souls it can burn brightly once again when the restrictions are eased. And how we’ll appreciate it then!
I made a sort of ‘green man’ mask last year before the lock-down kicked in. It hangs on the wall of our living room and I think of it as a kind of talisman, reminding me of better days to come when I can travel more freely and get out into the wild places more. I hope it’s soon though!”
“I had a totally different idea of what I wanted to do with this, involving collage, but the photos of Duncan dancing made me want to try to first capture the movement in drawings. I ended up pulling out pastels I hadn’t used in probably 40 years that happened to be in my watercolor bin. There’s a reason Degas used pastels for his dancers–but having no fixative, there’s also a reason I haven’t used them in awhile. Right now they are hanging on the wall where they won’t smear until I get something to spray them with. I still have the collage idea filed away for some future project…”
“Here is Isadora in one of her famous dance poses around the year 1900. She must have been an amazing lady, with her love of free and natural movements, and seeking the divine expression of the human spirit. I suppose she was the original ‘wild child’ and was always deemed to be one of those stars to come to an inevitable tragic ending. There have been so many other women since who have passed away, never reaching their full potential – Janice Joplin, Sharon Tate, Grace Kelly, Amy Winehouse, Marilyn Monroe, Whitney Houston, Princess Diana, to name but a few. We shall never know what heights they would have reached and whether they would have ever been ‘tamed’, so to speak, but I doubt it. However, I bet Isadora would have loved Rock and Roll!”
“What an extraordinary woman Isadora Duncan was at that time, and pre-dating Diaghalev! That surprised me. For me she fits in with the photographs of fairies, and the kind of dance to me that is very ethereal, rather than wild. Wild, however, for that time of restricted movements due to tight bound bodies in corsets. Wildness for me is in the actions of natural forces on our environment that leave their traces of upheaval and transformation in the landscape and seascapes that surround us. Nature cannot be tamed by man or woman.
The first image is a combination of two strips of photographs I took in France a long time ago: every September on that South West coast of France there is a strange storm that transforms the landscape over night. I did not know about it at the time. The storm was brewing and all day my partner and I had been sniping at one another. The sky changed to an inky mauve and I started running towards the beach about a mile away. The sea was jade green… still as a pond… the sky deep purple… the boats like paper cut-outs… so, so still and then the rumble, flash, and torrential rain. I screamed and screamed, and the beach was filling up with people who also screamed. It was the most remarkable storm I have ever witnessed. The sea was like a wild beast. Tsunamis must be the most terrifying though; this was just a flash in the pan in comparison. The next morning the beach was unrecognisable. All the dunes had changed shape. The pools of water held mysterious images. The fences were broken and disordered once again.
So this photo reminded me of that. I looked at it and saw a corset in place of the fencing, something that kept the wildness of the sea in check, but easily broken.”
‘Once upon a time, there was a tribe called the Rondels. The Rondels believed in discipline and harmony and their dance was ballet and, for them, Ballet was Dance. For many, many years, the Rondels lived and worked and strived to perfect the Ballet, always correcting, and polishing, and correcting some more to ensure the Ballet met the rigorous standards of their forefathers who had laid down the Rules.
Then one day, out of nowhere it seemed, there was an Other amongst them. This Other was not a Rondel, the shape was very odd. This Other did not blend in or harmonise with the tribe, but was a vivid contrast, clashing and startling in her variety. This Other did not do Ballet, but moved in strange and unexpected ways, twisting, flowing, swirling in a Dance all her own.
Many of the Rondels were shocked by this Other. “That’s all wrong” they said. “That’s not Dance. She’s not abiding by the Rules. It’s immoral!”
Other Rondels said “It’s just Showing Off. Take no notice. It will soon get bored and go away.”
But a few said ” It may not be Ballet, but those colours are beautiful. Perhaps we could try something a little different with our colours?”
And a couple of Rondels whispered “That shape is so exciting – could we not incorporate it into the Dance in some way?”
And one little Rondel, braver than the rest, went right up to the Other and said “Please, what are you? What do we call you?”
And the Other replied “I am a Dancer, and my name is Isadora.”
Then the little Rondel summoned up all her courage and said “Please, Isadora, will you teach me to dance like you?”
“But aren’t you learning to be a Ballet Dancer?”
“Why can’t I do both?”
And Isadora thought for a moment and then laughed.
“No reason,” she said. “No reason at all.”
And although Isadora was not with the Rondels for long, they learnt much from her, and even after Isadora had gone, the Rondels adopted and adapted and tried out new things. It didn’t always work and some Rondels could never bring themselves to accept these innovations as being equal to the Ballet. But many did, and years and years later, little glimpses of Isadora can be seen again and again, anywhere where there is Dance.‘
“Young Once: if only the ravages of time could be kept at bay! This is a pick of my my high school mate Mark in his daring red jumpsuit in front of his very yellow Holden Gemini at a very country pub early 80s. I came across the ultra-contrasty original pic while packing stuff away and instantly new Mark would be my wild subject!”
“My father kept budgerigars and tropical fish and, as children, we marvelled at their beauty and difference… but see these creatures in their natural habitat, and their captivity becomes a cramped, needless and extremely sad practice. In Rose Tremain’s book “ Restoration” Merivel is given an “Indian Nightingale” which has “travelled the seas”, and is thus seen as both strange and exotic. Later it is shown to be a common blackbird… He has been duped! But I wonder? Perhaps the strange and exotic is simply a state of mind transforming the everyday into something wondrous… how we “see” the world. We can create our own cages so, to me the “wild” is the imagination, and that’s the road to freedom!” Crayon on Fabriano. 22” X 22”
“I properly disappeared into this prompt, another complete world building around it and absorbing me completely. I kept discovering all these pockets of rage and sadness as I wrote this, not least because I’ve been reading a lot about so-called “conversion therapies” and ‘cures for homosexuality’, and not least because a fair ratio of ‘Glorious’ is based on the life and times of an individual I know well, a man who guards his freedoms fiercely, with no f**ks given.”
You’ll find an online PDF version here.
Thanks to regular blogger, scribe and kick-abouter, Kerfe Roig, we have our new prompt… another great opportunity to let our ‘Hair’ down? In addition, a heads-up re. The Kick-About No.26. The 26th edition means we’ve been running around in each other’s company for 52 weeks – a year of creativity under strange constraints. I’d like to mark the occasion by making the 26th edition a celebration of all that’s gone before, so I’ll be asking kick-abouters to choose their own favourite submission so far, and offer up a few words as to why, and maybe something too about the importance of creating and making. I look forward to hearing from you in due course. Something to think about, but until then, ‘Let the sunshine in.’
Surely it was curiosity that drove Eugen von Ransonnet-Villez, the subject of our last Kick-About, to construct a submersible so he could paint what he found beneath the waves. Ole Worm, Danish physician, natural historian and collector, gathered the eclectic subjects of his curiosity into a remarkable museum, a wunderkammer, which is this week’s jumping-off point…
“What a mouthwatering prompt this week, such cabinets have always fascinated me. I think many of us curate our own little wunderkammers in our homes; on windowsills, mantelpieces and coffee tables; little collections of things we found on walks that sparked our interest and wanted to keep. The prompt brought up memories of early childhood for me, growing up in a rather dull South Yorkshire town where the local museum felt like a magical portal to a different world. It was a mysterious and beautiful world, but also a bit scary at times, because it brought me into contact with things that were strange and didn’t fit. I felt quite at home! I’ve written a little story about it, with a boy who lived in a dreary town, a boy who lit up every time he went to the local museum…”
“My whole flat feels like a Wormianum. so these are little glimpses! My take on this was to echo the idea of travel/ collation/collecting, as well as including my practice in the form of notebooks, some being records and thoughts from the trip and some being journeys of the imagination via reading the accounts and experiences of others. Unlike the seventeenth century, when so much of the earth was whited out as Terra Incognita, there is little left that has not had a human footstep, so that what were once strange and extraordinary objects, being revealed to an incredulous audience, are now widely accessible and available online. (On the other hand, the deep seas are akin to outer space, still relatively unexplored/wish it could remain so/and mind bogglingly full of bizarre and beautifully alien life forms). I suppose, in the end, it comes down to objects being touchstones/gateways back to the time and place or people that passed them on, so more of a personal diary than showcase. The National Geographics are a legacy from my father, who travelled far and wide through the images and articles, in a way he was unable to do in his life.”
“I can see how Mr Worm turned his house into a museum – my house is much the same! I have many collections of items acquired over the years. Starting from when I was a library assistant, I always loved books and anything historical. When I ran a Charity Shop I collected all manner of bric-a-brac, vintage clothes, jewellery etc. One of my hobbies before lockdown was to share my 1950s memorabilia and give reminiscence talks at local care homes. This was very rewarding, and I believe Mr Worm would have felt the same pleasure in showing off his treasures. Welcome to ‘Marionium’.”
“I am by no means a photographer, but I am someone who collects dead, strange and curious objects. In my own little “museum” that I’ve formed here, I have skulls, bones, vintage photographs, fossils, and the occasional human tooth. The idea of one day having an entire room dedicated to the curiosities I spend time collecting, much like the Museum Wormianum, is a thrilling prospect. What fascinating pieces will I have acquired in that time? In this image, there is a beloved pet, an ice age bone, creatures picked up from roadsides and woodlands, photos of people long gone, and so on. This collection, to me, is a commentary on death not being an ending, but rather an opportunity for something new.“
“When I went up to my attic to retrieve a heavy wooden box – not opened in years – from beneath a collection of other heavy boxes, I rummaged inside it for a parceled-up collection of ephemera from my past I knew I’d squirreled away for one reason or another. When I found the small paper parcel, tipping out its contents for closer inspection, I quickly found I couldn’t remember the import, value or significance of many of the objects I’d otherwise deigned important enough to save for posterity. Incertae sedis is Latin for ‘of uncertain placement’, and is used taxonomically to classify things that otherwise do not fit existing schemas or cannot be categorised straightforwardly or curated into bodies of knowledge more accurately. I present the contents of my own mini-museum, with some artefacts contextualised where possible, but most speaking to the fallibility of memory and the destiny of most of our sentimental keepsakes to fall into meaninglessness, and if not for ourselves, then inevitably for others.”
“The museum topic instantly took me to repatriation of plundered pieces, but then I had to confront my love of museums and galleries where the stimulus from vast quantities of fabulous pieces nicked from all over is so heady it makes me swoon! I went through some pics of objects from the British Museum, and, I think, the Museum of Natural History in New York (and one stray marble angel from Bath) and threw them together. When I gouached them together it felt good to me – rather dark, but I haven’t had that creative groove from the act of image making for some years.”
“I was initially going to use many of the collectable bric a brac scattered around my dads house and superimpose those on makeshift shelves using roof timber slats that are littered with spiders, but I decided to go against that as I wanted to not mimic Ole Worm’s Museum Wormianum but to go on an adventure and create a story around the origins of all the collectibles and relics that Worm has in his possession. I imagined Old Ole as an adventurer, wearing tan colours and a careworn hat bleached from sweat from adventuring to mysterious places where the sun scorches and the animals and plant life are of the carnivorous sort. Old Ole has fought mutant monsters deep within the caverns of caves, sailed high seas, and fought his way through tortuous chambers. Old Ole has earned his stripes and his relics. Since Old Ole’s book of treasure dates back to 1655, I wanted to use a medium that is also ancient, but has stood the test of time, so I turned to collage. I used many of the bric-a-brac that is dust ridden around my Dad’s house to kitbash and collage them together, as well as pages from the Museum Wormianum to create the ocean – as well as some hieroglyphics scattered about. I have become a bit obsessed with house plants, so some of my plants are in there too – a fatsia, Monstera and Schefflera.”
“Grief and cardboard… Not sure if this is appropriate for this week’s Kick-About, but in my head, it fits with the idea of a cabinet of curiosities. A collection of artefacts concerned with investigation and understanding… “
“I have long been fascinated by the strange things people collect and keep. These cabinets of curiosities are often associated with the Victorians; part educational, part souvenir, and frequently macabre, they suited the Victorian Brits’ devotion to exploration, discovery, and gothic, otherworldly tales. (It also helped to have big houses in which to display them, and plenty of maid servants to keep them dusted!) However, Victorians were not the first to exhibit this fascination with all that is strange and weird; alchemists and apothecaries were renowned throughout the centuries for the collections they kept in their shops: stuffed animals, dried plants and “Things” in jars, all of which purported to possess strange properties of healing or death. From this line of thought it was no great step to find myself reading about shrunken heads. (Did you know, the skill lies in removing the skull by slitting the back of the neck and parting flesh from bone, and then wrapping the skin around a wooden ball so it maintained its shape as it shrank? No, neither did I!). So I decided to make a ‘shrunken head’, and as I was working on it, I found myself thinking about the Victorian gothic tradition, and of Miss Havisham in Dickens’ Great Expectations – and it suggested a poem. So there you are – from shrunken heads to shrunken hearts in a single step.”
“For various reasons, including a recent dream, the turtle shells jumped right out at me, so that’s what I focused on. Given time, there is much more to mine from even one glimpse of Ole Worm’s collection, of course!”